Have you ever looked at an old photo where the clothes or a textile suddenly transports you immediately back to that exact time and event?
Sometimes it can catch you unawares. Last week I was given a whole collection of photos from my childhood, some of which I had never seen before, but the dresses I was wearing in the photos sparked off memories of 50+ years ago!! I remembered the look and feel (nylon!!) of the dress, my ‘leather-look’ pvc short coat, my emotions at the time, where we were, what we were doing – so many elements of memory all flooding back without any effort at recollection – they were just there. In a way, they weren’t really a memory – it was like the first time, living the moment in my mind just as it happened.
I’ve been reading a lot on quantum physics recently (I know! but I just can’t seem to help myself!! LOL) and the memories and principles behind quantum physics all seemed to connect up. But more than that, it got me thinking more deeply about how we are so bound up with the fabrics in our lives. I have always loved the metaphor of ‘the fabric of our lives’ – how seemingly disparate, different strands of our lives embed, entwine and weave together – and the experience of all the emotions and memories of time, place and actions coming flooding back through the memory of my clothes was incredible.
The power of textiles to evoke these memories is seemingly undiminished with age and even mental infirmity as my Dad (now approaching 92) and with onset Alzheimers recalled vividly the sleeveless pullover in mustard and black that he used to wear before I was born, as seen in this family photo with my mother and brother.
All this got me reflecting about us weavers and creating cloth that will become the memory legacy textiles for our loved ones and ourselves. What does it take to create something that will be treasured by us and others into the future? Actually, it turns out – not much! Even the simplest cloth can be that link to a long-lost memory or a future link to our current present. It seems that the textiles we most often use as a time-travelling tool are those that were with us as young children. As I looked through my photos, it was the photos of my clothes that helped me remember the time in which it was set rather than the hair style or location.
But how much more special is a textile that has been created personally with creativity and originality?! And why do so many weavers believe it to be so difficult to create something original and personal? Throughout my weaving career, I have met many weavers who feel that only experienced or college-educated practitioners have the wherewithal, or the right, or the confidence to make something unique.
Is this because so many of us are adults when we started weaving and we’re worried about getting it wrong? Is it because we have lost our childhood sense of adventure, our curiosity, our ‘what happens if I do this’ attitude?
Do any of these thoughts resonate with you?
Do you feel you aren’t skilled or knowledgable enough to create your own drafts and your own meaningful textiles?
What’s holding you back?
And if you do make up your own drafts or design your own textiles, what gives you the confidence to dive in? What do you primarily focus on? Is it colour, is it yarn choice, a favourite structure, or even sheer curiosity?
As a teacher, one of my main roles is to be a facilitator of creativity, a builder of confidence so that people feel empowered to try something new to them, to be creative in many different ways, to take those first steps to introduce different elements, whether that is a colour or yarn, texture or structure. It’s fun to look at things from different perspectives, to realise that mistakes are opportunities and to see how mistakes can lead to real development and creativity, no matter how long you’ve been weaving or how sophisticated or simple your loom. I am proud of some of my mistakes because they led me to new insights and ideas. (Some, of course, were just mistakes!!!)
The more I think about this, the more I realise that my mission as a weaver and teacher is to unlock creativity through weave and I really look forward to continuing this conversation with you in the coming weeks!! Do get in touch and let me know your thoughts – firstname.lastname@example.org. I really would love to hear from you!
I hope you enjoy these ‘blasts from the past’!! Laura Ashley dress c 1979 (left). Cowl neck purple/turquoise jumper and my first hand-knitted lace tank top c 1982